Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Soft Shetland Wool Blankets

Two more Shetland wool blankets are finished and ready to go:

A208 | Approximately 50% Shetland wool and 50% alpaca |
228 cm (extra long) x 137 cm | $350

SH008 | 100% Shetland wool | 181 cm x 127 cm | $230

Friday, 22 February 2013

Shetland Wool and Alpaca Blankets

I wove two blankets with machine-spun two-ply alpaca on the Shetland wool warp. These ones finished up beautifully and are the widest blankets I've ever been able to produce - in other words, washing barely shrunk the alpaca widthwise. This is probably because the alpaca includes very low percentages of bamboo or nylon to increase its strength and minimize shrinkage.

A205 | Approximately 50% Shetland wool and 50% alpaca | 186 cm x 140 cm | $300

A205 Detail

This blanket was on an earlier post but here it is again with more information:

A206 | Approximately 50% Shetland wool and 50% alpaca | 174 cm x 140 cm | $300

A206 Detail

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Shetland Wool Blankets

Three more Shetland wool blankets are now available:

SH002  | 100%  Shetland wool |  180 cm x 130 cm | $230

SH002 Detail

SH003 | 100% Shetland wool | 178 cm x 130 cm | $230
SH004 | 100% Shetland wool | 185 cm x 130 cm | $230
SH004 Detail
And two more blankets woven with alpaca on Shetland wool will be posted later this week.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Second Run of Shetland Wool Blankets

My second set of Shetland wool blankets is underway. I've beamed the warp in a range of greys and browns.

These blankets will be woven in a 16-thread twill pattern, similar to what I use for many of my towels, in 15 lengthwise stripes that are each 10 cm (4 inches) wide. I'm curious to see how the twill works in the Shetland wool with alternating colours in some of the stripes. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

First Two Shetland Wool Blankets Finished

My earlier blog on these blankets woven of Shetland wool gives some background, and now two blankets are finished and ready to go. The first blanket (SH001) is pure Shetland wool and it softened up very nicely during the washing and pressing stages.

I wove two blankets with fine, machine-spun alpaca, and here is A206.

The alpaca blanket had very little take-in widthwise, with a finished width of 140 cm (55"). This blanket has the luxuriousness of alpaca, and and it's high-quality stuff from Exotic Fibers in Alberta. I have lots more left on hand for future blankets.

The pure Shetland wool blankets will sell for $230 each, and those with alpaca will be $300. Taxes and shipping are additional.

I'm already planning my next blanket project with Shetland wool, this time in predominantly greys and browns, and I'm thinking of weaving it in complex 8-harness twills like I do for my towels. I think I'll be using this Shetland wool for a long time, so there will be many opportunities to experiment with the design.

Monday, 11 February 2013

New Ski Chair

I just picked up my new ski chair from Pat Radolla, who is a wizard in recycling and reusing old materials to make practical and beautiful creations. These skis were from a youth group that was about to throw them out before Pat stepped in and saved them. And that gave him what he needed to make ski chairs.  (If you want to see some amazing designs, enter "ski chair" in Google and press images.)

Pat and I kind of agreed to trade a ski chair for one of my blankets, so he and his wife are coming over when all the Shetland blankets are ready. This one is very comfortable and it's really solid. It will be fantastic in my weaving studio!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

My Personal Progression in Bobbin Winders

A weaver winds countless bobbins, both for sectional warping and the shuttle itself.

I've worked my way up from a hand-cranked bobbin winder:

to a homemade style that served me well for well over 25 years:

When the motor on this one kept overheating, removing the lid became a permanent design improvement.

One blanket project requires a total of about 2,000 m of yarn wound onto larger bobbins for warping and then onto smaller bobbins that fit into the shuttle. Multiply that by a conservative 8-10 projects a year, and over all those years the used sewing machine motor installed into the homemade box probably wound close to 500 kilometres of yarn for me. Thank you!

This week I received in the mail the Cadillac of bobbin winders, an electric Leclerc model:

Like my earlier one, it operates with a foot control. More sophisticated models have a length counter and can hold the bobbin at each end, but this one is so smooth and easily controlled that I'm in heaven. I had to go back to my original hand winder for a week before it arrived, and my right bicep is still recovering.

A loom, shuttles and a few other accessories are obviously key to any weaver, but a well-functioning bobbin winder is equally essential and this new one I really appreciate.

Monday, 4 February 2013

First-Ever Shetland Wool Blankets

Wool blankets are my passion and focus. I've been wanting to try different plied wools for the warp, and this Shetland two-ply is new to me.

The Bergå wool I talked about for one of my early blankets is very nice using a sett of 10 ends/inch, but it's hard to obtain now. I've been using a thicker two-ply at 8 epi but wanted something a little finer. This project uses a lighter-weight Shetland wool with a heathery or tweedy look that helps the colours blend well. I'm warping it at 12 epi. Not only will I weave with the warp wool, but I usually have various handspun wool, alpaca and blends on hand.

Choosing colours for these blankets was the hardest part - the palette is beautiful. I'm using two tweedy shades of brown - one is a reddy shade and the other is duller and greyer with a yellow tinge - along with charcoal and natural (white). I'm returning to what I call twill blocks, but making block changes within some of the colour stripes instead of always correlating the colour changes with the block structure.  Get it?

Thanks to Jane at Jane Stafford Textiles for her excellent service and then her assurance to get me started when I had some concerns about this new wool. Jane also has a great helpline on her website with good advice and specific answers to common questions.